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Valley of the Sugar Mills

By Linda Tancs

Eight miles northeast of Trinidad, Cuba, a trio of rural valleys–San Luis, Santa Rosa and Meyer–comprise the Valley of the Sugar Mills.  The industry peaked there in the 19th century, when more than 30,000 slaves worked in more than 50 sugar mills.  A monument to that powerful industry is Manaca-Iznaga Tower, a 147-foot-tall mud brick structure built in 1816 by Alejo Maria Iznaga y Borrell, a successful plantation owner.  Its value as a lookout over this region dubbed an area of Outstanding Universal Value by UNESCO belies its harsh history; a bell in the tower once signaled the start and end of the slaves’ workday in the mills and on the plantations and sounded an alarm should any of them try to escape.

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